OS X Dashboard: Apple's oft-ignored widget interface — do you use it?

OS X Dashboard: Apple's oft-ignored widget interface - do you use it?

OS X's Dashboard has been around for almost a decade, a repository of "Widget" mini-apps. Do you use it or do you ignore it completely?

Dashboard is a special app built into OS X that features "Widgets." These mini-applications combine HTML, CSS and JavaScript to provide limited functionality compared to full-blown applications, but still offer plenty of functionality that's only a single key-click away. Apple really hasn't made any innovations to it in years, so it's easy to ignore the Dashboard. That's probably why many of us ignore Dashboard completely, though based on my unscientific survey, many of us still depend on it daily. I know I do, which is what got me wondering if and how you use it.

Apple includes a number of built-in widgets like a calculator, calendar and clock, stock tracker and more. But there are literally thousands of additional widgets that you can download and install to do whatever you'd like. There are widgets for shopping, widgets for weather. There are game widgets, food widgets, widgets for information and transportation. Widgets that monitor what's happening on your computer, widgets to follow your favorite sports teams. There are widgets for practically anything.

I did a survey of my Twitter followers to find out how they used Dashboard — or whether they used it at all. I was crushed with responses. Many of you told me that you don't have a use for Dashboard; some of you said that you have, in fact, deactivated Dashboard all together (you can uncheck Show Dashboard as a Space in the Mission Control system preferences, or to go the extra step, actually kill the process in the Terminal).

Messy Dashboard

But the many others who are using Dashboard find myriad uses for it. Setting clocks for different time zones, for example, or for weather map tracking. Some use it to track package deliveries, or to jot quick notes.

I use mine regularly for the calculator and unit conversions, and some of you do too. I also use it to look up words in the Dictionary, even though I could by option-clicking and using the pop-up menu. Text translation is another use. I even keep track of sports teams I care about using an ESPN widget.

Dashboard has been around since OS X 10.4 Tiger, and it'll probably be around for a while longer. What uses have you found for it? Let me know in the comments.

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Peter Cohen

Mac Managing Editor of iMore and weekend Apple Product Professional at a local independent Apple reseller. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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Reader comments

OS X Dashboard: Apple's oft-ignored widget interface — do you use it?


Then Google.com is always quicker for me. LOL.. I last used it with my G4 iBook, I thought it was very cool. Right now I have disabled it on my MB.

Haha. Yeh I am over that. Its a futile attempt to try be private online in my opinion. I use all Google services because they are the most convenient.

Yes - I look at it all the time. Quick looks at weather, calendar, stocks, iStat nano. Also have a couple post-its on there. I wish Apple would pay more attention to Dashboard. It could use a fresh coat of paint and a general refresh. I hope they improve upon the concept/execution rather than just ignoring it until they eventually kill it off (maybe as soon as 10.10?).

All the time. The top right hot corner brings me a quick look at the month's calendar, the weather report, and a radar image. Plus quick access to a special characters widget for those things for which I will never remember the key combo to generate.

And Astronomy Picture of the Day, because pretty space pictures.

I occasionally swipe into Dashboard to use the calculator but that's about it. I lament that FrontRow wasn't updated but Dashboard limps on.

I wouldn't miss it if it was gone.

Dictionary/Thesaurus gets a lot of use from me when I am writing. I use the calculator and weather widget sparingly.

I use Dashboard for allot of the things you mentioned like weather monitoring and sports results but also for use in astronomy & NASA related fields as well. I use it many times each and everyday & frankly would be very disappointed to see it go if that should ever happen.

Yes, I use it ALL THE TIME. Stocks, weather, calendar, iStat Pro, notes, conversions and time. I would be devastated if Apple were to abandon it all together.

All the time via a hot corner. Delivery Status, Weather, and iStat are necessities, but I also use it for countdowns, a few sticky notes, and quick screenshots. I'm surprised more people don't use it, and even more surprised the widget platform has been essentially abandoned for so long.

I use Dashboard probably 10-15 times a day! The notes feature is so handy for me, and being able to see the weather and Stock updates without having to close out of what I'm doing is super convenient!

Yes I use it primarily for iStat Nano. I even use it for widgets that will automatically find album art for iTunes and one that pulls screenshots of webpages at high resolution.

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Never use it. Widgets might be more useful if you could pin them to the desktop with an always on top option.

I often scowl at its "space" when I four-finger swipe to move across spaces... I figure "one day it might be useful" but that day never comes for me. I really have alternatives pretty much everywhere else (I have many informational items in the toolbar, and I'm a geek so I'm often running a terminal window with important laptop stats). I never thought to disable it until reading this, but I'll be doing that as soon as I get the chance. :)

All the time: I use it mostly for weather, world time, agenda and quick notes !!
I remapped F4 key to call it instead "Launchpad" and its icon has the place next the Finder icon in dock.
Dashboard is for me obligatory, whereas Launchpad is completely useless.

Use it multiple times daily, for the calendar, calculator, currency conversion, weather and a world clock for 6 locations.

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One of those rarely-used features for me. Used to use it for notes, and quick conversions, but I've switched to asking Siri instead when I got my 5s. Disabled Dashboard now.

While I gain much of its functionality via Siri and iPhone apps, I'm a creature of habit and tend to utilize it when I'm at my Mac and need to make a conversion, a calculation, a translation or even make a quick check on the calendar. I've also got a Futurama quote generator widget which makes me laugh whenever I remember to look at it... ;)

I hate that Apple hasn't improved the widgets experience. Why not make them pop-ups or give us top control bar access to our info? Meh. Get rid of 'em, otherwise.

I haven't used it for almost 10 years now. I still forget I have the comic strip widget there, I should go check in on Calvin and Hobbes.

I must say that the fascination with the weather is mind blowing. Question? How often is your weather app correct?

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Disabled that screen the second I learned how to. Never found use for it

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I use it often for weather and multiple clocks, also the calculator and notes I need there all the time. It could be more customizable maybe, but so far I do use it.

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No, stopped using it years ago. I have all relevant info at my fingers tips (or pull down) via the menubar. Waste of space/cpu resources to invoke a whole screen full of widgets that all need to refresh to access a single bit of information.

Same reason I got rid of Yahoo Widgets.

Sports scores, webcams (Slothcam), package tracking, countdowns. Access info quickly - in and out - takes 10 seconds.

I never use it, if Dashboard was more ascetically customizable with an OS theme, I would consider its functionality. It feels so out of place, whenever I go there.

If I knew where to get better widgets I'd use it more, what Apple needs to do is bring it iOS, with the iPhone 6 most likely getting a bigger screen, it's going to look stupid if it's just got another row of icons.

Use it all the time. Mostly calculator and Tea Timer. Multiple timers. Other widgets I can do without, just haven't found a good replacement for up to 10 timers counting down at a time.

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It's not often, but I actually do find myself popping over for a quick glance at the weather, a quick calculation, an occasional unit conversion (all three of which could be done on Google/browser) or just get get a pulse of my Mac with iStat. So yeah, I guess I do find value with Dashboard.

As much as I think that I'd want widgets flying around on my Desktop homescreen, but they probably would be in my way and get annoying. I'd probably create a Desktop 2 just for those widget to keep them at bay; but then that is exactly why Dashboard is there, right???? Haa

Rarely use it. I'd prefer that they replace it with an iOS emulator to run apps that could then sync with my iPhone and iPad apps. The iOS apps are better than the widgets and sometimes if I'm making lots of edits in an iPhone app, using a full keyboard is much quicker. And I wouldn't even mind that the app ran at the same size as the iPhone screen. The weather apps are also better than the widgets.

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I use a time machine widget to see in detail exactly what it is doing, especially when on wifi which could take some time.

The only thing I use it for is to quick look at iStat, mainly to keep an eye on the heat my rMacbook generates.

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We still develop dashboard widgets, games, clocks, news, or just for fun ones...Google for TheDashboard, Pimp my Dashboard, MacWidgets, DashboardApps, DashboardGmer, GameWidgets, UnityWidgets...just to name a few ;-)
Can i post some links here without been bullied for spam????